LETTERS, I GET LETTERS. They come to my house and they are written by some computer that pretends it knows me. They call me by name -- MISTER COHEN: "Why, MISTER COHEN, did you know you could receive $18 a day in the hospital in the event of an accident? Wouldn't you feel better knowing MRS. COHEN is getting some money?" Gosh, yes.
My mail is dismal: "MISTER COHEN, have you thought of what would happen if you pre-deceased your wife?" Actually, yes. I've thought about it many times. I've imagined my funeral, everyone gathered around, weeping. The president would be there and maybe Laren Bacall because she must know by now how much I love her and, of course, my weeping, grieving wife, feeling sorry for all those times she made me take out the garbage. I think of my funeral all the time, thank you. Next letter, please.
"MISTER COHEN: This is Sears. Did you know that you have $212 available credit in your account?" (I'm getting the message.) "How come you have not spent this money, MISTER COHEN? Don't you know there's a recession coming? You have to spend! It's your duty. We have refrigerators and dryers and electronic garage doors. How about some aluminum siding? Think about it, MISTER COHEN. Do you want to be known as the man who will not spend up to his limit?"
Do the computers talk to each other at night? Do they compare information? Does the Sears computer talk to the American Express computer? Can I have my unused balance at Sears applied to my American Express bill? Does the Sears computer know that the American Express computer has just sent me one of those "have-you-overlooked-something" letters?
Another letter: "MISTER COHEN, this is Reader's Digest. Just take a couple of hours of your life to read the brightly colored pages of instructions, rip out the right forms, tear along the proper perforated lines, paste the right little star in the right little box and you, too, MISTER COHEN, can win $50,000 for life, or whichever comes first. MISTER COHEN, just imagine the faces of your neighbors in Washington, the district of COLUMBIA, when you drive down the street in your new car or they see your tan from your wonderful, fun-filled, free vacation on the island paradise of Jamaica."
Oh, boy, Reader's Digest, I would love to see the faces of my neighbors as I drive down the street in my new car. I just know what they would say. They would wonder how come I have money for a new car, but no money to paint the house. How could I explain it to them? And while I'm asking questions I have to know, if I win, do I have to pose for a picture with my arm around my wife, standing before a ranch house with brightly colored pebbles on the roof? I await your answer. YOUR PAL, MISTER COHEN, WASHINGTON, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
More letters: "MISTER COHEN, frankly, you are just the man we're looking for. We've accepted very few people for this offer but we knew you were the discriminating sort. What sort of man are you, MISTER COHEN? Why, you are the kind of man who makes a nice salary, who enjoys fine wines and warm brandies. The theatre is no stranger to you, MISTER COHEN. You are exactly the sort of person we are offering charter memberships in the Erotic Art Book Club. These are not mere dirty pictures, MISTER COHEN . . ." Next letter, please.
"Dear MISTER COHEN: Do you have money for your golden years? Do you have a retirement plan for those leisure years? Maybe you like to fish. (Hate it. Can't stand to hook worms.) Maybe you like to golf. (Hate golf. Can't stand yellow pants.) Be serious, MISTER COHEN. You're going to have to retire someday."
"Dear MISTER COHEN: You may already have won a prize. The number in the right-hand corner may already be the lucky prize winner. To find out, MISTER COHEN, all you have to do is visit one of our homesites at Rocky Woods, Virginia, just a short drive from your house on ELM LANE in WASHINGTON, D.C."
"Dear MISTER COHEN. This is Time Magazine. We have let your name peek out from our cleverly designed envelope.Do you know the world is going to pieces? Do you know the ice cap is creeping down from the north and killer bees are coming up from the south and that ballet is in and Woody Allen is no longer a genius and that God is not dead, but merely hiding. MISTER COHEN, when you drive down ELM LANE in the car you have won from Reader's Digest, do you want your neighbors to think you're an unread jerk?"
Another letter. A strange envelope, with no plastic window. I open it. "Dear Uncle Dick. Happy Birthday."
Thank God, someone remembered.